AUBURN — About a month ago, the Auburn Tigers were coming off a heart-breaking seven-point loss to reigning ACC Champion Clemson, but were still optimistic. Kiehl Frazier showed promise in his first career start, throwing a touchdown pass in the first quarter, and the Tigers’ run game racked up 180 yards.
The biggest question marks were for the defense, which couldn’t wrap up a birthday present much less a running back, as Andre Ellington had 25 carries for 228 yards.
How things have changed in five short weeks.
Now the Auburn offense is a litany of question marks: Who is the starting quarterback? What is the offense’s identity? Why has the run game through Tre Mason been de-emphasized?
Auburn football coach Gene Chizik said the issues will continue to be assessed as he plans to take a more active role in the offense and re-establish the run game.
“I felt like going into (the Clemson) game, we knew exactly what it is that we were trying to get accomplish in the run game,” Chizik said.
“It expanded a little bit as we went forward and then I think that as we struggled trying to create more is not necessarily always better.”
With two weeks to prepare for the SEC’s worst defense, the Tigers’ offense fell apart and lost 24-7 to an Arkansas team that had become a laughing stock under the always animated coach John L. Smith. The dismal performance prompted Chizik to apologize to fans.
Needless to say, the outlook for the rest of the season is dismal at best, and the seniors are trying to keep the locker room from falling apart.
“We made it pretty clear that if you’re not going to fight with us, we don’t want you out there,” tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen said. “We’ll see who continues to buy in and be all-in with us and who doesn’t.”
After a poor offensive performance against Louisiana-Monroe, offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler moved from his customary position in the press box down to the sidelines, something Chizik said he expects to continue for the remainder of the season.
Despite Loeffler’s move, the offense continues to sit at the bottom of the SEC in most statistical categories.
It is last in total offense (302 ypg.), 13th in passing yards (172 ypg.) and is
12th in rushing yards (130 ypg.).
The Tigers have been outscored 45-3 in the fourth quarter and Frazier’s only passing touchdown since the Clemson game was a desperation pass to end the half against Louisiana-Monroe.
The defense has improved but is still giving up an SEC-worst 192 yards per game on the ground and the Tigers’ lone interception, which is last in the SEC and 115th nationally, came when Daren Bates picked off Tajh Boyd to start the fourth quarter in the season opener.
Auburn is a 4.5-point underdog for Saturday’s game at Ole Miss, a team that has lost 16 straight SEC games dating back to Oct. 2, 2010.
“A lot of guys may have lost faith because we’re 1-4,” cornerback T’Sharvan Bell
“We don’t want guys to lose sight of the goal. We can’t win a championship right now, but we’re still very capable of winning every game on the schedule.”